Belgium plans new wind farms in the North Sea
Belgian State Secretary for the North Sea, Philippe De Backer (Open Vld), will submit a project tomorrow to the government to double the number of offshore wind farms from 2024 onward. These offshore wind turbines would then generate as much renewable energy as all wind turbines on land together. The point is that he wants to do it without subsidies.
Tendering is the new magic word
“Maximum renewable energy at minimum prices”, that’s the motto of De Backer for the project, aimed at doubling the amount of wind energy generated from 2,3 to 4 gigawatt by 2030 at the latest.
Four offshore wind farms are already fully operational before the Belgian cost, accounting for 232 wind turbines and 900 megawatts of energy production. Forty-two new wind turbines are currently being realized and construction of the Northerpark and the Northwester II windmill park will also start next year, followed by Seastar and Mermaid.
For these nine wind farms that are being built, De Backer was eventually able, after negotiations, to reduce the subsidies by several billion euro. Now he wants to take a different approach: he no longer wants to grant concessions, but to issue ‘tenders’, as the Netherlands have done successfully. New wind farms are being built there without a single euro of subsidies.
De Backer sees three options. A tendering as in the Netherlands without subsidies or with minimal subsidies. A tendering as in the United Kingdom with a fixed price, for which the parks will then be built. Or an auction, in which only the lowest price is considered.
Soil and wind studies will be carried out at the expenses of the government, as in the Netherlands. Otherwise companies will have to pass on these costs and there is a risk that subsidies will be used (for this De Backer is looking at existing resources or the green bonds).
For the transformation platforms and the cables to land, De Backer proposes that grid manager, Tennet, should bear these costs. High-voltage grid operator, Elia, will strengthen its coastal electricity grid in order to cope with the extra offshore energy production. The new wind farms must connect to Elia’s grid.
Bank guarantee and dividends
One of the dangers of tendering without subsidies is that the parks will not be built eventually, as a result of which Belgium will not achieve the European objectives. That’s why De Backer, like the Netherlands, wants to ask for a bank guarantee of 10 million euro per 100 megawatt. It would then serve as a settlement indemnity if the project were to be cancelled.
De Backer also proposes that a framework law should be drawn up, setting out the principles for tendering for offshore wind energy projects in the North Sea. This law should also immediately create the possibility for the exploitation of other renewable energy sources, such as wave and tidal energy. It is also planned that companies and private individuals will be able to participate financially and thus receive a dividend from the wind farms.